Detail On Public Health Emergency : Special Note

What is Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC)?

  • The term Public Health Emergency of International Concern is distinctly mentioned in the IHR (2005) as “extraordinary public health event which is determined, under specific procedures:
  1. to constitute a public health risk to other states through the international spread of disease; and
  2. to potentially require a coordinated international response.”
  • This description of PHEIC clearly indicates that PHEIC is a condition that is severe, unfamiliar or unpredicted; carries harmful effects for public health beyond the affected countries national border, and may need speedy international action.
  • Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) is also known as Global Emergency.
  • Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) must be reported immediately by the member states of WHO.
  • The IHR (2005) require States to notify WHO of all events that may constitute a public health emergency of international concern and to respond to requests for verification of information regarding such events.

Before moving further, let’s have a quick reflection of what is International Health Regulations (IHR):

  • The International Health Regulations (IHR) are an international legal instrument that covers measures for preventing the transnational spread of infectious diseases.
  • International Health Regulations (IHR) is an instrument of international law that is legally binding on countries.
  • International Health Regulations (IHR) is a benchmark to state the rights and obligations of countries to report public health actions.
  • International Health Regulations (IHR) are the international agreements with the objective of preventing the spread of public health threats without unnecessary impairment of international travel and trade.
  • The International Health Regulations (IHR) was adopted by the 58th World Health Assembly in 2005 through Resolution WHA 58.3.
  • International Health was in action since 15 June 2007.

Criteria for Considering Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC):

IHR (2005) include a decision instrument (Annex 2 of the Regulations) which sets the parameters for notification to WHO of all events which may constitute a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).

There are four criteria for declaring a public health emergency of international concernWorld Health Organization declares a PHEIC if it meets 2 of 4 conditions i.e.

  1. seriousness of the public health impact of the event;
  2. unusual or unexpected nature of the event;
  3. potential for the event to spread internationally; and/or
  4. the risk that restrictions to travel or trade may result because of the event.

Importance of PHEIC:

Declaring PHEIC;

  • Reduces the potential for international disease spread
  • Reduces the likelihood of unilateral trade and travel restriction by other countries

What does World Health Organization (WHO) do in case of PHEIC?

  • In PHEIC, the emergency committee recommends the Director-General to formulate short-term recommendations to include health measures experienced by PHEIC in order to reduce the possibility of spread of the disease globally along with the invalid interference with international traffic.
  • Additionally, WHO develops and recommends the critical health measures for implementation by Member States during such an emergency.

Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) Declared Till Now:

  • Ever since the revised version of IHR (2005) was into action, WHO have declared five PHEICs:
  • When WHO makes a declaration regarding PHEIC, it helps to coordinate immediate response with the affected country and other countries globally.

When and How will WHO Issue Recommendations Concerning Public Health Emergencies of International Concern?

  • Once WHO has determined that a particular event constitutes a public health emergency of international concern, the IHR (2005) require WHO, upon request, to give a ‘real-time’ response to the emergency.
  • Based on the details specific to each emergency, the Director-General of WHO will recommend measures for implementation by the affected State as well as by other States.
  • These time-limited recommendations are made available to States and, subsequently, made public. Depending on the evidence, recommended measures could then later be modified or terminated.
  • The Emergency Committee will advise the Director-General on these recommendations.

References and For More Information:

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